Friday, June 19, 2009

Tee Ball Mom

Somehow I have given birth to a jock. It's not that I'm unathletic--I played a fair game of tennis back in the day and wasn't immune to running long distances now and again--but I'm totally noncompetitive. I clutch in the clutch. I drop easy pop flies, miss simple shots. I have absolutely no game.

Will, he's got game. He is focused and assured. He's in the zone. He is six and king of the Tee Ball field.

Yesterday was his first game. I believe "organized chaos" would be overstating the case of what went on. "Anarchy in a Baseball Cap" comes closer. In Tee Ball, certain rules are relaxed. You can strike out, but it takes awhile. Three outs might or might not retire a side. Sometimes getting ten runs, one after another, retires the side.

It will come as no surprise to many of you that the parents are already out of control, even at this early stage. Okay, mostly the dads. My first sign of this was when the other side went up to bat. Our team--the Red Dragons--seems to be pretty laid-back, parental-wise. I liked that everyone clapped for every play, no matter whose team was up. That's the tee ball spirit! But when the Blue team came up to bat, the other side went wild. They were cheering and chanting. I think it psyched their guys out, quite frankly. The Red Dragons were victorious in the end, 17-15.

Of course, a score of 17-15 tells you everything you need to know about the quality of the defense.

Except, that is, for Will. I try not to brag about my kids too much in this space because it's unbecoming and nobody wants to hear it. Yeah, yeah, all our kids are geniuses.. But I'll brag on Will a bit, just because he's earned it. The kid is out back every day playing catch with his pitch-back contraption. He's fielding, he's throwing, he's batting. And I will say with some pride that the other parents were saying, "Who's that kid on third with the arm?"

"That's my boy," I said, mentally thumping my chest. My little jock.


We are off to the beach tomorrow. I'm thoroughly unprepared, so today--when the temperatures will be soaring close to one hundred--I'll be running around like a crazed person, buying groceries, washing clothes, and getting out the sheets and towels we'll need for our rental house.

I don't think our beach house has wireless, so I'll see you week after next, assuming I'm not eaten by a shark. Until then, be good, hug your children, and eat some good chocolate. You've earned it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some vague, rambling, unconnected stuff (i.e. what you've come to expect)

I don't know about you, but last night I was hanging out at a ukulele jam. Yeah, I took Jack down to the local fiddle and guitar shop, where a group of ten or so ukeleleists were putting their own particular spin on "Sewanee River," "You Take the High Road, I'll Take the Low Road," and that great old Elvis Costello tune, "(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." Would you believe me if I said it was incredibly cool?

Ukulele jams definitely fit under the category of "Homemade Good Times." If I sometimes long for days when folks sat on their porches and chatted and played guitars and fiddles (and, maybe, just maybe, the odd ukulele), it's because there is something about making your own fun that's awfully, well, fun. And there are no commercials to sit through, nothing to make you cover the kids' eyes.

Do-it-yourself entertainment: the wave of the future?


Second fiddle lesson yesterday. Why is it that at home I don't screech or squawk at all, but as soon as I sit down in front of my teacher, it's like my fiddle has turned into an outraged chicken?


Saturday I took Will to a birthday party at another one of those birthday party warehouses, the kind with giant inflatables and kiddie slot machines. When it was time for cake and ice cream, we were led into a small room where a college student dressed like a basketball ref served the kids pizza. If I could have discretely slipped this kid a tip, I would have. He put up with a lot of smack and smart talk (including, I'm afraid, some from Will, who has unfortunately decided that he's a comedian), all with good cheer.

It reminded me of the various lousy jobs I had during summer breaks, including telemarketing and camp counseling. Telemarketing was the worst; I lasted three days. As I recall, being home during the summers when you're a college student isn't much fun in general. I quit doing it after my junior year, choosing squalid, un-air conditioned apartments with a multitude of friends over having a curfew and watching the 6 o'clock news while eating dinner on TV trays, the air chilled to a perfect and constant 72 degrees.


It is way too hot for June. So why have I started knitting a cardigan for my dad? Because Christmas is coming! Will this be the summer I actually get my Christmas knitting done by September?

Um, yeah, I think we all know the answer to that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Philosophy 101

It's summer, and when it's summer my thoughts most often turn south. I live in the southeastern United States and spend a goodly amount of time in the Appalachian mountains, and when everything turns green I fall in love and start reading books with titles like Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lovers Guide to the South and All That is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region.

In general, I am a sucker for local cultures, regional foods, and old ways. When I practice my fiddle playing, it gives me a thrill to learn a song that people have been playing for hundreds of years. When I knit, I happily ponder the fact that folks have been knitting down through the ages.

I'm trying to work on a theory why this stuff intrigues me. Why do I enjoy being connected to the past? Why do I get excited when I read an article in the paper about a family-run barbecue joint in South Carolina? Why does the idea of a quilting bee or a knitting circle just tickle me pink?

I don't think it's nostalgia or being homesick for the home I never had (as Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum put it). I'm too old and cynical for nostalgia. The closest I've been able to get any sort of answer goes back to another question I've raised before in this blog (and of course has been raised since the beginning of time): What are people for? There is something about idiosyncratic self-expression--whether in the music we make, the food we serve, the socks we knit--that seems at the heart of it to me. Which means that mass produced culture is somehow antithetical to what we're supposed to be about.

These is the stuff I'm going to think about this summer while I'm knitting and fiddling and eating barbecue. If you have any insights, let me know.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let the Summer Games Begin

We're back. I think it's a sign you're getting older when for every day you're on vacation, it takes a day to recover once you're home again. This particular trip called for a lot of driving and a lot of hiking. Also some time spent in the deep down heart of a cave, where I was convinced I was going to break my leg (caves being wet and slippery in spots) and have to be carried out. I also kept expecting the cave ceiling to suddenly collapse and crush us all. I don't believe a career as a spelunker is in my future.

I love this part of summer. I'm not tired of the heat yet (usually that happens in the third week of June) and I still have grand dreams of what I might accomplish. Will this be the summer I actually make new curtains for the bathroom? Dare I be so bold to hope?

I did something quite unusual yesterday: I took a lesson. I am your basic self-taught type, which is why I do so many things so haphazardly, seemingly without rhyme or reason. When seasoned, serious knitters watch me knit, they cock their heads to one side, raise their eyebrows quizzically, and say, "I've never seen it done that way before."

For me to shell out money to someone to teach me to do something, well, it's pretty much unheard of. But this spring I took up a new musical instrument, began teaching myself, and enjoyed playing so much that I didn't want to stop. Being a person of enthusiasms, some more long lived than other, I knew the only way to ensure I kept up with it was to take lessons.

Yesterday, fiddle in hand, I walked down Wilkerson Street, knocked on the door of the house with all the paintings nailed to the front porch walls, and began.

I was terrified, as all shy people are, of performing in front of another person. But my teacher, who bares a close resemblance to Santa Claus, was as laid back as you'd guess by the lived-in look of his porch, made me feel comfortable right away. So it was an hour well spent and now I can play "Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm," a staple of old time music.

A good start to my summer. Another good start: It's 9:21 and my children are still sleeping. I've waited ten years for this day, and it's finally here.

Whoops! One just woke up. Must run. Have a great Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quick Update

We're on our way out of town. I've got a summer bug and am looking forward to napping in the car for hours on end.

Everyone has graduated. Fourth Grade Graduation was actually quite moving. I've known a lot of Jack's classmates since they were in kindergarten, and it's hard to believe how grown-up they are and how grown-up they're going to be in a few years.

Here's a problem for you to solve while I'm gone: Laundry spots. All too often when I pull my clothes from the dryer they have spots on them that they didn't have when I put them in the washer. Danielle told me she's heard a possible culprit is dryer sheets. Those of you who dry on the line, do you get spots? Has anyone gotten spots and figured out how not to get spots?

Is the problem that we buy all our tee shirts at Target? Should I be shelling out more for shirts to avoid the dreaded spots?

Please help. This problem has been plaguing me for years. I have finally admitted that I am powerless over it. The rest is up to you.

See you next week!